All About Color Index Codes

I began writing an explanation of color index codes in another post, but it became too long so I’m putting it in its own post!

The short explanation is that watercolor paints have “ingredients” labels that can be read to identify which pigments are in them. For example, Ultramarine Blue has the code PB29 (Pigment Blue #29). If you see PB29 on a paint label – for example, in Daniel Smith’s Undersea Green, which is PB29, PY150, PO48 – you generally know you can mix a similar color with Ultramarine Blue as one of the ingredients.

The long explanation? You can learn to decode these seemingly arbitrary color codes, and here’s how!

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Artist Palette Profiles: Mike Daikubara

Mike Daikubara is an urban sketcher based in Charlotte, NC and the author of Sketch First, Think Later and Color First, Ink Later. Sketch First, Think Later encourages you to get out and sketch quickly with a minimal kit; Color First describes a slightly more involved, wild style where you put down layers of dripping color to capture light and shadow and color interplay, then draw ink lines and details after it dries. I enjoyed both books, though the Color First method seems a bit advanced for me!

Today, I’m going to talk about Mike’s palette as described in Color First.

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Color Comparison: Phthalo Green (PG7) vs Cobalt Turquoise (PG50) for Mixing Spring Greens

I’ve always found Phthalo Green Blue Shade (PG7) to be the most useful mixer for bold, bright, new, spring shoots. Compared to blues, even the very bright and greenish Phthalo Blue Green Shade (PB15:3), Phthalo Green consistently makes cleaner, brighter greens. In my post Mixing Watercolor Greens for the Foliage of the Northeast, Season by Season, I recommended PG7 and Lemon Yellow (PY175 or PY3) for the best spring green mixes. After doing a tutorial with Paul George, I began mixing up spring greens with another color: Cobalt Turquoise (PG50). So how do these colors really compare?

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Mixing Dark Reds

Dark red is a hue I often have trouble mixing. Adjacent colors, like brownish brick red or deep violet, are easier, but I struggle with that juicy, velvety, true dark red – think wine, roses, and black cherries. Or for a less poetic-sounding option, skunk cabbage!

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